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Africa|Installation|PROJECT|transport|Wireless
Africa|Installation|PROJECT|transport|Wireless
africa|installation|project|transport|wireless

South Africa’s digital migration to move ahead from March

12th February 2021

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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After many delayed starts and renewed deadlines, South Africa is on track to start the year-long phased switch off of analogue television (TV) transmitters in March.

In his State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on February 11, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he expected the province-by-province process to be completed by the end of March 2022.

“The completion of digital migration is vital to our ability to effectively harness the enormous opportunities presented by technological change,” he said.

The country’s digital migration process has suffered many delays, with South Africa ultimately missing the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union for completion of the process.

By 2018, a new delivery model was developed in an attempt to expedite the process. Cabinet approved the new model in October 2018.

The then-Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said that the revised delivery model would see government step back from its involvement in the procurement of set-top boxes and the warehousing, transport and installation of the devices.

The new model for the implementation of the broadcast digital migration project adopts a market/retail-driven approach through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry.

In February last year, the Portfolio Committee on Communications raised concerns over the slow implementation pace of the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy by the Department of Communications.

“This, after the committee has learnt that the programme of migrating from analogue to digital terrestrial TV in South Africa is already five years behind schedule, and out of about 4.7-million qualifying households, only 511 368 have been connected to the digital decoders,” said Portfolio Committee On Communications chairperson Boyce Maneli.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa assured that the process for the licensing of high demand spectrum is at an advanced stage.

“We hope that the ongoing litigation on the licensing matter will provide legal certainty and will not unduly delay the spectrum auction process.”

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) published the long-awaited and years-delayed invitations to apply (ITAs) for the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network.

However, it has been met with legal challenges from some mobile operators.

Telecommunications groups MTN and Telkom have taken to the courts to have portions of the authority’s auction process scrapped or reviewed.

MTN approached the Gauteng High Court in January, objecting to Icasa’s decision to put operators in two categories, putting MTN and rival Vodacom in Tier 1 and Telkom, Cell C and others in Tier 2.

Newswire Reuters earlier reported that, under this classification, Tier 1 operators would be excluded from an opt-in auction round, undermining their ability to secure access to the 3.5 GHz radio frequency spectrum band.

In December, Telkom took to the courts to have Icasa’s spectrum licensing process suspended on the basis that the respective ITAs were fundamentally flawed as they included the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequency bands, which are being used by TV broadcasters and are not likely to be available for use for a long period after the auction.

Telkom further argued that the decision to proceed with the auction of the 700 MHz and 800 MHz under the current terms and conditions specified in the ITA is severely prejudicial to Telkom as it will likely entrench the dominance of Vodacom and MTN in the market, to the detriment of smaller players such as Telkom.

Icasa is opposing the legal applications.

“We believe that this licensing process has been balanced, with no room for a winner-takes-all attitude,” said Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng at the time.

Icasa assured, moreover, that there was no need to be alarmed by the legal battle as the process for the licensing of high demand spectrum would continue as planned in March unless there was a court order issued to delay or halt the process.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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